Stadio Franchi–some hopeful news and, perhaps, a way forward?

There is some tentatively promising news regarding Nervi’s Stadio Franchi in Florence, which has been threatened with demolition by the owner of Fiorentina, the Italian football team that plays there, and the municipality.

Responding to a plea from 33 leading architects, engineers, and historians–including half a dozen Pritzker Prize winners—Dario Nardella, Florence’s mayor, responded today with this press release, which (roughly translated) reads:

“I read with interest the letter signed by important architects on the Artemio Franchi stadium, which once again highlights the great international attention in general for the city of Florence and today in particular for the stadium designed by Pier Luigi Nervi. The attention has been amplified by the international press, from the New York Times to the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

I cannot fail to point out that that same attention was lacking when the Franchi stadium was heavily modified for the 1990 World Cup. sports facility.  It must be evident to all, even these same “archistars,” that a sports facility, if it is not adequate to the times for functionality, usability and sustainability, loses its original function.”

I have great respect for the illustrious signatories of the letter and I believe it is important to listen to the international professional and scientific community, seizing advantage of the availability offered by them.  We are awaiting a response from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage for the correct interpretation of the new rules and – out of institutional respect – I believe it is only right to wait for that opinion. As of now, I would like to invite all the signatories of the letter to a videoconference meeting for an open and, I hope, constructive discussion. I look forward to a positive response to this invitation from all of them. “

So, nothing ‘concrete,’ (couldn’t resist), but a definite change of tone from previous missives.

One possibility that the city may consider is an idea that has been informally floated regarding the larger site of the Franchi, Florence’s Campo Marte, still nominally a military practice ground northeast of the central city.  Since the construction of Nervi’s stadium on it in 1931-32, the 40-hectare site has accumulated a cluster of sports facilities, including a 1990 stadium custom built for track and field events after the Franchi’s track was removed to accommodate World Cup games.  That stadium, the Stadio Luigi Ridolfi sits on a smaller footprint, but has no historic value and is located across the street from the platforms of the city’s second rail station (the one you go through before you arrive at Santa Maria Novella if you’re coming from Rome). 

Google Map image showing the Stadio Artemio Franchi (top), the Stadio Luigi Ridolfi (center left) and the Stazione Campo Marte Firenze, bottom left.

What if…that stadium were demolished, instead of the Franchi, and a new, state-of-the art football stadium was built in its place, with direct connections to the platforms of the railroad station.  The Franchi could be restored, the 1990 accretions mentioned by Nardella removed to reveal Nervi’s cantilevered roof in its original form, and the athletics events now held in the Stadio Ridolfi could take place on a rebuilt track surrounded by a preserved Nervi masterpiece?  The pitch there now could serve the community—imagine being a kid playing on the actual field that had once seen your heroes competing—and the Campo Marte could be developed as a new commercial and residential zone centered on the new stadium, much as wildly successful projects around Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field have earned team owners a healthy revenue stream while providing amenities for fans. 

More to come, surely.  In the meantime, please consider signing the petition as we are planning to send an updated copy to the Mayor’s office later this week, and keep fingers crossed…

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